How To Build An Online Community [8 Secrets You Never Knew]

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Knowing how to build an online community and engage with your customers online, and allow a forum for them to connect and engage with each other is essential for any organization. In fact, successful communities have been proven to be one of the best investments you can make, generating an ROI of almost 6,500% on average! Mind-blowing figures right?

In this article, we will explore online community guidelines and how you can build a community online, based on a set of rules created by social media platforms that ensure a certain standard of conduct. Visitors to your social media platform should be fully aware of what is expected from them as they converse with one another thereby creating a safe environment for users to interact and have fun.

Rules on prohibited behaviour that could lead to accounts being suspended or permanently deleted should be clearly posted by community managers and are easy to find through the community forum or online platform.

Here are 8 SECRET tips you should know when creating your organization’s community guidelines and learning how to build a community online.

Table of Contents

1. What Is An Online Community

Create-Online-Community-Guidelines .

Online communities are groups of people united by common interests, opinions and goals who meet in an online space. Essentially an online community is akin to having a digital community for like-minded people to interact with each other on an online community platform.

Depending on your business objectives, this could be a private group for sharing learnings and transformation stories. It may look like an open community where thousands of people come together to share resources and feedback. For example, members of the fitness community can share their social channels and journey to connect with real people and form authentic connections.

No matter your platform of choice, online communities are a great way to facilitate meaningful discussions and form an emotional connection between your followers.

Online forums can empower your audience to:

  • discuss topics they’re interested in
  • connecting with a brand, online instructor, business owners or other community members
  • learn and collaborate on businesses/projects

There’s no one size fits all when scaling an online community. Understanding what type of online community will be best for your brand is the key to creating a thriving community.

When building an online community, you should carefully consider who is your target audience or potential customers patronising the community platforms.

2. Types Of Online Communities

The type of online communities you decide to create will answer the question above: who are your audiences, and what kind of community are you trying to form? You can have a big active community or a small private community catered to specific groups of like-minded individuals.

Online communities come in many different forms. There are several different types of groups, differentiated by their purpose, for example:

  1. Group Interest. A group brought together by a common interest, hobby or goals. These can be created on public social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. For example, creating a Facebook group for regular casual futsal players within your state or town.
  2. Community Action. Groups or communities are formed to bring a change or raise awareness for a cause. For example, Earth Day and Women’s Day are great examples.

Essentially, building an online community involves knowing what types of communities are essential to engage with your audiences and reach out to a broader audience in the research stage or looking for more information. It makes your community successful and produces relevant content for the end-user in the long term.

3. Your Community Guidelines Should Start With A Clear Mission Statement

After deciding on the type of community – you should also decide on the guidelines to be implemented. Guidelines exist to ensure quality content, and a standard of behaviour is enforced for users to interact within a safe online environment.

The best place to start your community guidelines is a mission statement. Before you get to the specific do’s and don’ts, it’s important to spell out why your community exists and what it hopes to achieve.

A mission statement is a formal summary that outlines the general purpose of your community and the business goals you want to achieve with it. What do you hope to accomplish with this community? How does it help reinforce your brand’s values?

Creating a mission statement not only helps you and your staff understand your big-picture goals but it’s also critical for your members. If you’re unable to articulate clearly what your organization’s aims and values are, how can you expect millions of visitors to your platform to be aware of them and act accordingly?

While a good mission statement should be reflective of your organization’s values, it’s important to stay away from long-winded screeds. The statement should be short and simple to your customer base and with an eye on the future and your long-term goals.

Lastly, don’t be afraid of gaining inspiration from examples online, either from others in your industry or from the big names in the world of online communities, such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

4. What Should Be Included In Your Community Guidelines

Deciding what to include in your guidelines can be a tightrope act between being thorough enough to cover all potential bad behaviour and overwhelming users with long, overly-complicated lists of regulations to follow.

Keep your average community member in mind and avoid filling your community guidelines with ‘legalese’ or industry jargon. The most important thing to consider is that you want your members and participants to read your guidelines so they should be concise and easy to digest.

Avoiding ambiguity is crucial when stating your community guidelines. Don’t just say: “Comments should not be rude or derogatory” as that can be open to subjective interpretation. Better to give examples of the kind of comments that won’t be tolerated, such as: “Comments that degrade on the basis of race, religion, gender, age, or abilities are not acceptable. Such comments will be moderated and possibly deleted.”

The kind of platform your community is will influence what your guidelines cover. For example, if your community is predominantly frequented by minors, you may want to consider dedicating more specific guidelines to protecting users from grooming, bullying, or harassment.

Regardless of the type of community, you’re aiming for, there should be some rules regarding the following fundamental areas:

  • Personal Safety: Harassment, hate speech, bullying, discrimination, sexual exploitation, self-harm, privacy violations, and doxing.
  • Illegal activity: Scams, fraud, drugs, and other controlled substances, promoting crime or violent organizations.
  • Integrity: Spam, account verification and multiple account users, disinformation, and fake news.
  • Protection of intellectual property: Of both the site and other users

In addition to stating what behaviour is prohibited, you could explain what is welcomed and encouraged. Take a look at Playstation’s Comment Policy, where they “encourage comments, critiques, questions and suggestions” from users.


5. Dealing With Violators Of Your Community Guidelines

Once you have created a set of guidelines to follow, make sure to back them up with action. Being clear about your responses to breaches of community guidelines is just as important as explaining the rules. Add a section to your guidelines that details the actions taken in the event of a rule violation. Keep it fair, straightforward and above all, be consistent. Be sure to inform the user what item of content has been flagged, which particular policy it’s in breach of, and what next steps the user can take

Some information you should include is:

  • What is the penalty for violations? Are there different penalties for first-time, second-time, or third-time offenders?
  • How many violations can occur before a suspension or outright ban?
  • Does your community have a zero-tolerance policy for certain behaviour?
  • What is your community’s review or approval process?
  • How can users appeal if their content is flagged or reported for violation?

You can expect many borderline or grey-area cases (often dependent on contextual or cultural differences) that will be too difficult for AI to interpret, so when you’re dealing with a situation that can result in a member’s suspension or banning, it’s best to have a team of human administrators to give the final word.

6. Allow Easy Access For Users To View Your Community Guidelines And Report Behaviour

You have your set of online community guidelines and have laid out the consequences for violators, now you need to make certain that your members and visitors are aware of them. Ensure there is an easily visible link to your guidelines on your website, forum, blog, or social media pages.

Many organizations link to their community guidelines in their members’ welcome emails, in each newsletter, or on their sign-up page. That way, all new members should be aware of the guidelines from the offset and existing members can be kept abreast of any updates.

Furthermore, although your team of moderators will be responsible for checking content, sometimes they can miss something. That’s why you should also give the users the possibility to report another member. Therefore, it’s essential to clearly show users how they can report any violations of the guidelines that you have outlined on your platform.

Is there a link or email address where they can notify an admin and share their concerns? How quickly can they expect a response? The American Diabetes Association Support Community, for example, uses a “Report as Objectionable?” link in the bottom-right corner of every post. Users click on the link, give details of the perceived violation and moderators follow up on each complaint within hours.

7. Update Your Community Guidelines Regularly

After some time, you will likely identify a gap in your policy that fails to address an important issue, or perhaps an unforeseen trend or a new way of thinking on a particular topic highlighted by the media will require an update to your guidelines to stay relevant.

Your online community should grow and adapt to the world that surrounds it and your guidelines will have to evolve with it. You need to be as agile as possible when instigating, enforcing, and communicating a new rule so, with all the talk of recent technological advancements, it’s highly unlikely that an AI system will ever be able to fully run the show.

Your community guidelines are intended to inform and serve your users in your community so it’s worth regularly revisiting these policies to ensure that’s still the case.

8. Launching & Promoting Your Online Community

After you’ve been satisfied with the community guidelines, it’s time to prepare to launch your online community. To promote your online community, use your existing online presence to its fullest potential.

Make sure you promote your launch everywhere, including through emails, social media platforms, word-of-mouth and by having your customer support team tell your current and potential audiences about the new online community platform.

Conclusion On How To Build A Community Online (With Gear Inc.)

Online interactive communities live or die based on the quality of content on their platform. Content Moderation is crucial to ensure only appropriate user-generated content is posted and the online experience of your users is as fun as it is informative. It’s important that a community’s members have their voices heard or find the information they need in a timely manner.

Gear Inc. employs ‘reactive moderation’ to ensure your members aren’t faced with a lengthy wait to see their content hosted or their questions answered. Our highly-trained and multilingual human moderators review posts in real-time and will eliminate any offending content based on your pre-defined criteria.

Moderating in this way ensures your members won’t be left frustrated by delays or unexplained take-downs by an AI unable to apply ‘common sense and will leave your online community running smoothly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To learn more about the process of outsourced customer support and the value that it can bring your business, contact Gear Inc for a free consultation and trial.

Frequently Asked Questions On How To Build An Online Community

How Is An Online Community Created?

A thriving online community must have excellent, relevant content. The community is useless without providing an online community’s members (or audience) with consistently high-quality (or valuable) content.

What Makes A Strong Online Community?

Online communities that encourage and showcase superusers (regular forum contributors) are successful. If you empower your most passionate customers, they will become brand advocates, who often create the majority of content while actively helping other customers. It also makes their content more reliable for new users to your community.

What Are Some Examples For Good Online Community?

There are many examples, social network groups such as Facebook groups or online forums. One unique example would be Foursquare. Foursquare was developed to engage users to edit landmarks and have users of the app work together to make the app better. This methodology encourages the user base to interact and become successful advocates of Foursquare, leading to a surge of users from 250,000 to 8,000,000 in just a short span of a year.

How Do Brands Build Community?

Most established brands already have some community through their social media pages or online forums. Still, a big part of building a strong community is bringing those members to a place where they can get more opportunities for discussion, engagement, and collaboration. One good way to do this is to have email lists and a branded community created for user engagement.

Gear Inc.

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